Local parent, researcher and writer, Maddie Wallace, continues her daily diary describing the experience first, of self-isolating, and now of being in lockdown with her children in Southsea. We’re at Days 68-71, and Maddie is giving her take on the Dominic Cummings interview from the perspective of a single mother in lockdown.
Bank holiday weekends used to be about meeting up with mates, having barbecues on the common, enjoying an extra day off work, lazing about with the kids. Now they’re about the latest way the Government has undermined public trust and how they’re going to ride it out this time.
My PhD research has a heavy focus on government disinformation and misinformation, particularly the elements of it that are pure storytelling and fiction. Since the EU Referendum in 2016, Dominic Cummings has been the epicentre of Westminster lies and deception. It started with a big red bus, but the dishonesty is a never ending story. And all the more galling because what Cummings did – and Johnson’s refusal to condemn him for it – reeks of power and privilege.
It seems that no one in the Downing Street hub of hubris gave much thought to considering that if Dominic just held his hands up, apologised and accepted what he did was wrong, that this would all blow over. Instead we were treated to a rare live TV grilling of a top advisor, who we’re expected to take seriously despite his previous form with outright lies.
My children understand that when they make a mistake they should own up and apologise. Of course, they don’t always do this initially because the fear of being wrong and the shame of what they’ve done can make kids try to hide their actions. But once they’re caught out, we don’t expect our kids to dig in on their original story, flex their muscles, stick their chins out, and try and paint themselves as the victim in their own mistake.
It’s ironic that Dominic Cummings attempted to use the special circumstances part of the lockdown rules he wrote to excuse his little road trip up north, given that the special circumstances were there to help with extreme situations: you know, things like domestic abuse. His statement was a lesson in how to make excuses, deflect blame, sow the seeds of doubt and re-write the story taken directly from the Alpha Male Play Book of Control. There were continual references to his wife, sister and nieces, one of whom apparently volunteered to sacrifice herself on his behalf and look after his child should he be too sick to do so himself.
What, so his child is more important than his sister’s? Because he seemed pretty keen to put his seventeen year old niece in danger.
There was no apology. No recognition of why people might be upset by the choices he made – only that ‘many are angry about what they have seen in the media about my actions’, to quote the man himself. No acknowledgement that the 19.2 million other families in the country had also faced tough choices under the guidelines he wrote. Surely the 2.9 million single parents had the right to interpret the rules like this too, because how could they care for their kids if they got sick? But if everyone had made the same choice as Dominic, it would have been chaos and completely undermined lockdown. So why is it one rule for him and one rule for the rest of us?
Well, the rest of us aren’t privileged elites with the backing of the Prime Minister. The domination of these people over business, banking, financial markets, the media, technology, oil, weapons, health care, education– quite literally everything in the infrastructure of our societies – now sits as an even more jarring contrast to the sacrifices everyone else has taken on the chin during this crisis.
If you’re in any doubt as to whether Cummings is telling the truth, just consider how he claimed his trip to Barnard Castle on 12th April was to test his eyesight. With his wife and child in the car. What he neglected to mention was that it was also his wife’s birthday that day. He took a non-essential trip during lockdown while expecting the rest of us to celebrate our birthdays at home without our loved ones. Because he can. And then he lied about it. And carried on lying on national TV in the garden of Downing Street. Unfortunately, once you’re caught out in a lie, it tints the rest of your claims with the same stench of manure.
He tried to paint a picture of himself as the victim of media abuse to try and deflect blame and sow the seeds of doubt about the media’s intentions towards him. Must be awful to have the press pack turn on you after you’ve spent so long training them to jump for for titbits, and using them to leak your propaganda from ‘an unnamed Downing Street source.’
The whole thing felt at times like a boys own endurance test. You can imagine Boris giving him a dressing down and saying, ‘Look, Dom, you know you’ve caused us a bit of trouble so you’re going to have to take a spot of public humiliation. Just stick to the story. Remember; it’s about making people empathise with you as a parent. That’s our best bet here.’
This was reinforced on Sunday when Johnson announced Dominic was only following his instincts. I guess you followed your instincts all the way through lockdown and did whatever you fancied too? Probably not, because most of us obeyed what we were instructed to do. Loads of people struggled through being ill while coping with their kids. Loads of people had to look after disabled children whose regular day care was closed, while also ill themselves. Loads of people who live alone are isolated and in desperate need of human contact.
Or is this all just about ending lockdown? People have been upset about the Government’s decision to send Years R and One back next week and the teaching unions are opposed to it. Perhaps this conveniently timed story deflects attention elsewhere while also undermining the lockdown message and making people want to act out in anger. If the Prime Minister’s special advisor can get away with breaking lockdown, then it can’t be that serious after all. Let’s all go have a party on the common.
At some point, we need to ask ourselves the collective question of whether we want to keep giving lying, cheating ‘psychopaths’ so much power. Who knows what the future holds, but hopefully one of his beloved AI companies can develop a model to predict the likelihood of Dominic Cummings ever telling the truth, because so far, his sense of entitlement means the truth has once again eluded a man with a proven record of lies and deception.
Maddie is sharing her lockdown experiences every day on S&C – you can find each day’s diary and all of Maddie’s previous articles for S&C here.